Anne Baker Leazenby has spent every holiday season since she was a teenager behind the counter at The Bakers Rack. With the closing of this community icon at the end of August, she says she is most looking forward to experiencing the holidays from an entirely different perspective.
“It’s going to be days of parties,” Leazenby said. After helping others get their decorations and gifts ready for the holiday season for the last 44 years, Leazenby says she will spend quality time celebrating along with family and friends this year.
Leazenby’s mother Mary Dixon Baker opened The Bakers Rack as a plant store in 1973. The business eventually evolved into a popular gift boutique known for its signature brown and white polka-dot wrapping paper.
After leaving Owensboro to attend college, Leazenby worked all over the US for retail brands like The Limited and Victoria’s Secret. When she returned to Owensboro, she liked the pace of life and the vibe of the community. She has worked full time at The Bakers Rack for 26 years.
Mary Dixon Baker – who retired several years ago to spend her time volunteering with organizations like the Help Office – is back in the store serving customers during the 40 percent off storewide going-out-of-business sale through Aug. 30.
Under the leadership of these women, The Bakers Rack has shared in the joy of decades of Owensboro area weddings, babies, graduations and other family milestones.
“This type of business doesn’t exist in large cities,” Leazenby said. “We are here because this community chose to let us be part of their lives for so many years.”
Leazenby remembers her awe at the community response when The Bakers Rack was completely gutted by fire in 2002. A local business donated office space and they quickly began working with customers and vendors eager to rebuild the business.
The store reopened in a smaller space while the structure was rebuilt. Leazenby feels the community made it obvious during that time that they valued The Bakers Rack. “This community trained me,” she said.
When Leazenby decided it was time to retire, she chose to close the store while it is still popular. “Mom said ‘whenever you decide to close the store, be sure to do it on a high note,’” she said. “So that’s what we are doing.”
Leazenby hasn’t decided exactly what her retirement will bring, but she would like to use her knowledge and experience in some way to help local small business owners – or those who want to start a small business.
In fact, she hopes the closing of The Bakers Rack will leave a space for another local small business to open or expand to meet the gift-giving needs of Owensboro.
“Customer service has always been our real specialty,” Leazenby said. “We just happen to sell gifts too.”
Filling the gift gap
Trisons Gifts and Studio Slant are established options for unique gifts, gift registry, custom wrapping and free local delivery. Both have plans to fill any gaps left in the market when The Bakers Rack closes.
Trisons Gifts, located at 507 Frederica St., has offered home decor and gifts for all occasions including weddings, births and bereavement for 22 years. They have a large selection of pewter and items for custom engraving.
Owner Jennie Clemens says Trisons is ready to respond to any changing needs of the community resulting from the closing of The Bakers Rack.
Trisons Gifts is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Studio Slant, located at 624 Emory Dr., is a lifestyle boutique founded in Owensboro eight years ago. They offer a unique selection of gifts, custom items and monogramming along with registry for any occasion including wedding, first baby and first home.
According to owner Christy Chaney, Studio Slant is now offering some lines previously offered at The Bakers Rack including Happy Everything, Mariposa and Juliska.
Studio Slant is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The Bakers Rack and the Baker family have set the standard for gift stores in Owensboro,” said Chaney, who worked at The Bakers Rack as a teen. “They are leaving a large hole in the community that, as a business, we are going to work hard to fill.”